Frank O'Meara (1853-1888)


The nineteenth century was a time of great change in the methods and styles of artists especially in Western Europe. As the century began, the Classical style painted indoors in studios received universal approval. Artists painted historical and mythological figures in this approved tradition.

However over time younger painters grew dissatisfied with this rather stilted style and instead preferred to paint from nature, out of doors, hence the term 'plein-air' painting. They painted landscapes and often portrayed peasant life using colours and themes from the world around them. Paris and its rural hinterland became increasingly important in the context of this new artistic movement.

A further development was that young artists travelled out from the city and began to settle in the country. They founded artists' colonies in the vicinity of Paris in the Forest of Fontainebleu in such places as Barbizon and Grez-sur-Loing. These artists later became famous names in the world of art. In the 1840's and particularly towards the end of that decade, Rousseau, Millet and Corot lived or worked in Barbizon. Grez-sur-Loing was popular not only with native French painters it was also frequented by painters from abroad.

By the 1870's Frank O'Meara the young Carlow-born artist had arrived there from Paris. He associated with many artists there where he was free to depict nature in an ideal rustic setting. In the following decade he met with William Stott of Oldham and Irish painters John Lavery and Roderic O'Connor. There they shared their talents and ideas during the years that followed. Although O'Meara returned home to Carlow in ill-health in the spring of 1888, some of his associates continued to visit Grez-sur-Loing. However after his untimely death and particularly by the opening years of the twentieth century its importance as a colony had diminished considerably.

Short Biography

Francis Joseph O'Meara, known as Frank O'Meara was born on the 30th March 1853. He was the son of a doctor whose family resided at 37 Dublin Street in the centre of Carlow. He is thought to have been educated at Knockbeg College, a Diocesan College close to Carlow town. He completed his education in Dublin. O'Meara resided at different addresses in the capital, in Harcourt Street and Lower Leeson Street.

Instead of following a career in medicine, Frank O'Meara opted to develop his interest and talent in art. It has not been established whether he studied art in Dublin, perhaps at the Metropolitan School of Art, later known as the College of Art and Design or whether he took private lessons. In the early 1870's O'Meara moved to Paris to study art. He entered the atelier of Carolus Duran. He was one of about twenty-five young students who studied there at that time. Duran did not charge any fees but he fined those students who refused to speak French. One of his fellow students there was John Singer Sargent. O'Meara's student comtemporaries journeyed to Barbizon, a village situated about 50 miles south of Paris.

Frank O'Meara returned to Carlow in the spring of 1888. He was suffering from malaria which he had had for approximately seven years. He died at the family home with his father present. He was only 35 years old. He was buried at the family graveyard in Bennekerry close to Carlow town.

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